BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — A national election in Central African Republic, designed to replace its transitional government and bring stability to a nation wracked by years of sectarian violence, has been postponed to Dec. 30, officials said Thursday.
The election, delayed several times before, was originally scheduled for Dec. 27. The National Election Authority proposed a short delay to deal with technical and organizational difficulties, officials from the government and the election authority said.
Electoral agents need to complete training, said Bernard Kpongaba, vice president of the National Election Authority, adding that he did not have assurances that voting materials would have made it in time for the original date.
"We will take the time for the collation and deployment throughout the country," he said.
Campaigning will end Friday. A second round of voting will be held, if needed, on Jan. 3, he said.
Election representatives met with the heads of the transitional government, presidential candidates and representatives from international organizations, including the United Nations and the European Union, according to Henri Pascal Bolanga, a special adviser to transitional President Catherine Samba-Panza.
All parties agreed to a three-day delay but the Constitutional Court must now ratify the new date, Bolanga said.
Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the U.N. chief, confirmed the delay, and said presidential and legislative ballots have arrived in the capital, Bangui, and will be delivered to provinces. He also said a disarmament program was showing results, with both Christian and Muslim militia members handing over dozens of weapons.
Central African Republic citizens voted yes on Dec. 13 to a constitutional referendum that creates a senate, among other changes. The vote, held amid some violence and threats by rebels, was seen as a test for the much-delayed national election.
Muslim rebels also proclaimed an autonomous state in the country's north — a move immediately denounced by the transitional government and the U.N.
The overthrow of the nation's president in 2013 ushered in a brutal reign in which the Muslim rebels committed atrocities. When the rebel leader left power in 2014, a swift, horrific backlash by the Christian anti-Balaka militia against Muslim civilians followed. Sectarian violence has continued ever since.
Associated Press reporters Gabriela Matthews and Carley Petesch in Dakar, Senegal contributed to this report.